The Advent Wreath
A Prof. Haemig of Luther Seminary, reserach led him to believe that Johann Hinrich Wichern (1808–1881), a Protestant pastor in Germany is the inventor of the modern Advent wreath in the 19th century. In 1839, he built a large wooden ring (made out of an old cartwheel) with 20 small red and 4 large white candles. A small candle was lit successively every weekday during Advent. Then on Sundays, a large white candle was lit.
In Medieval times advent was a time of fast when peoples thoughts were expected to be directed to expect the second coming of Christ; but in modern times it has been seen as the lead up to Christmas, and in that context Advent Wreath serves as a reminder of the approaching feast.
In Protestant churches it is more common to use four red candles (reflecting their traditional use in Christmas decorations) because rose vestments and decorations are not commonly used in Protestant churches. Blue is also a popular alternative color for both Advent vestments and Advent candles, especially in some Anglican and Lutheran churches. This is in keeping with the liturgical seasons; blue means hope and waiting, which aligns with the seasonal meaning of Advent. Other variations of the Advent wreath add a white candle in the centre to symbolize Christmas, sometimes known as the “Christ candle.” It can be lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. White is the traditional festal colour in the Western church. Four red candles with one white one is probably the most common arrangement in Protestant churches in Britain.
In some Protestant churches, the candles represent hope, peace, love and joy. Often the third candle, representing love, is a different color than the other three, representing the importance of love as the greatest of all the qualities that abide eternally.
Whereas in Catholic churches, the most popular colours for the Advent candles are violet and rose, corresponding with the colors of the liturgical vestments for the Sundays of Advent. In the Western church, Violet is the historic liturgical color for three of the four Sundays of Advent: Violet is the traditional color of penitential seasons. Rose is the color for the Third Sunday of Advent, known as Gaudete Sunday from the Latin word meaning “to rejoice”—also from the first line of the traditional entrance prayer (called the Introit) for the Mass of the third Sunday of Advent. Rose-colored vestments are used on Gaudete Sunday, as a pause to the penitential spirit of Advent